The countdown for the first step on humanity’s return to the Moon has begun. The countdown for Artemis 1 started on Saturday morning, and if all goes well, the un-crewed Orion spacecraft atop the giant Space Launch Systems (SLS) booster will liftoff from the storied Pad 39B at Cape Canaveral on Monday, August 29, at 8:33 AM EST. The mission is slated to last for about 42 days, which seems longish considering the longest manned Apollo missions only lasted around 12 days. But, without the constraint of storing enough consumables for a crew, Artemis is free to take the scenic route to the Moon, as it were. No matter what your position is on manned space exploration, it’s hard to deny that launching a rocket as big as the SLS is something to get excited about. After all, it’s been 50 years since anything remotely as powerful as the SLS has headed to space, and it’s an event that’s expected to draw 100,000 people to watch it in person. We’ll have to stick to the NASA live stream ourselves; having seen a Space Shuttle launch in person in 1990, we can’t express how much we envy anyone who gets to experience this launch up close.
Speaking of space, there are some interesting results from the James Webb Space Telescope this week, with the announcement of the first unambiguous detection of carbon dioxide on an exoplanet. The planet, named WASP-39b, was discovered in 2011. It’s about 700 light-years away in the constellation Virgo, and is classified as a “hot Jupiter” planet, which is a gas giant that orbits close to its star. After being discovered by ground-based telescopes, both the Hubble and the Spitzer space telescopes took a look at it, and discovered signatures of water vapor in its atmosphere, in addition to sodium and potassium. Then Webb had a turn, and its ultra-cold infrared optics saw that the planet’s atmosphere strongly absorbs light from its star in the 4.1- to 4.6-micron range — just where CO2 would absorb. As exciting a scientific result as it is, it’s also an engineering triumph that teases just what this telescope is capable of.
A couple months back, we featured a story about Apple’s new attempt at placating the “Right to Repair” crowd by making the tools and materials needed to effect repairs on some of the products available. Discussing this on the podcast that week, we referred to it as a case of “malicious compliance” on Apple’s part. But after reading this article on MacBook self-repair, it looks like the huge kit of tools they rent out and the exorbitant prices on simple parts like batteries might have a different, more basic origin — the design conflict between usability and serviceability. Apple has a brand — sleek, polished, user-friendly, and undeniably tactile — and that’s what all its designs have to be about. If that means you have to glue pieces together to avoid visible fasteners, so be it. Maintaining that brand means making any of their products easy to take apart has to take a back seat to style, and that’s why it takes so many specialized tools to get the job done. One can — and should — still take issue with the price of Apple replacement parts, but for the most part, these devices are complicated to repair exactly because they’re Apple products. In other words, if you want sensible access to your devices, you might want to avoid the Apple ecosystem.
And finally, when your device is not repairable at all what do you do? If it’s in warranty still, you usually send it back for a replacement, after checking off all the usual customer service boxes. But one customer in Germany with a defective SSD had an additional box to check — complete and utter mechanical destruction of the SSD. In order to return Samsung 980 PRO SSD, the customer was instructed to either drill holes through the NAND flash, or smash it with a hammer. Presumably this was done for privacy reasons, but the fact that they requested video evidence of the procedure seems a bit odd. The snuff film, with the weapon of choice being an angle grinder, is below — destruction starts at about the 5:00 minute mark.